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Round the Sphere Again: Saturday Lite Edition

Tall and Strange
Fourteen of the weirdest skyscrapers. (Web Urbanist)

There’s the inside-out skyscraper, the horizontal skyscraper and the wooden skyscraper. There’s a bizarre three-towered structure made to vaguely resemble an elephant, tusks and all. And then there’s the giant pickle.

Our own log skyscraper here in town pales in comparison to Russia’s wooden skyscraper.

Not Really McCoy
At least not originally. (World Wide Words) There’s new evidence on the origin of the term “the real McCoy.”


Called According to Paul: Romans 8:27-30

This is another repost of an old post in the Called According to Paul series. I’m reposting them all, one per week (sort of), so I can link to them in the sidebar under Favorite Posts. An explanation of this series can be found here, and the already reposted pieces are here.

Not Herman RidderboHere’s this week’s text:

He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:27-30 NASB)

I’ve quoted more than just the verses with the word called in them because reading all four verses helps us to understand the sense of the passage. I’d explain it something like this:

The Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints, asking for things that are in agreement with the Father’s will for them. And the Father works in all things to bring about his will for them. This means that all circumstances bring about good results for those who love God (or the saints, or the called), fulfilling God’s will for them—a will which has as the end result their likeness to Christ’s image so that Christ will be the firstborn with many siblings who are like him. To this end God foreknew and predestined the saints, and as a result of his foreknowledge and predestination, he calls them, justifies them, and eventually glorifies them. This calling, justifying and glorifying are part of the process of working Christ’s image in them, part of the process of fulfilling God’s will for them, part of the process of working good for them, and part of the process of bringing to pass what the Spirit intercedes for on their behalf.

What we can learn about the way Paul uses the word called in these verses?

  • In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, we saw that being called is associated with our being loved by God, while in these verses, being called is associated with our loving God. Those who love God are those who are called.

  • Being called is also related to being a saint or being holy. This is an idea we’ve seen in previous passages.

  • Just as it was in a couple of our previous passages, the calling is grounded in God’s will or purpose, a will or purpose that has been determined beforehand (“called according to his purpose…” and “whom he predestined, He also called….”)

  • And again, the calling is related to salvation, but the nature of the relationship  of calling to salvation is spelled out for us here in a way it was not in previous texts: “…these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Calling is a result of God’s foreknowing and predestining; calling results in justification and glorification. Verses 29 and 30 aren’t called the golden chain of salvation for nothing. Each step—foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying and glorifying—is firmly linked with the others, and each link pulls the following link along with it. Our  justification and glorification alway follows our calling. So calling, as it’s used here, is a calling with power: the power to bring about the whole of our salvation.

  • We are called so we will be like Christ. This is a calling that is an appointment to be something. We’ve seen elsewhere that Paul says that God’s calling is to righteousness and holiness, or “so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).” This is the same idea expressed differently.

What do you see that I missed? What can you see in this passage about the meaning of the word called when it is used by Paul in regards to the call of God.


This Week in Housekeeping

This week I listened to two excellent (and brand new) lectures on the doctrine of the Trinity by James White. I’ve added links on the Theological Term page for the Trinity. These lectures are especially useful if you’re interested in learning how to give a scriptural defense of the doctrine of the Trinity to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Mormons or Muslims. And you won’t find them boring or hard to understand, either. That’s not something I can say about some lectures on the Trinity.

I also added links a quiz and answers previously posted here. If you’ve not taken the quiz before, why not see how you do?

Because, you know, those who don’t get the doctrine of the Trinity right aren’t going to have the gospel right, either. The good news of what the one true God has done to save includes all three—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—as equal but distinct persons.


Thankful Thursday

I’m thankful for this Thankful Thursday exercise. This is one of those weeks when my thoughts are not naturally thankful ones because there’s been stuff. Having to think about what I’m thankful for even when my circumstances are difficult is a good thing. There are always things to thank God for and it’s good to be reminded of that.

I’m thankful that I have sons. I’m thankful I have daughters, too, but this week, I’m especially thankful for my sons and their manly skills. I’m also thankful that they are willing to use their skills and knowledge to help me out. My sons are good gifts from God.

I’m thankful that I am secure enough financially that I have options when stuff comes up. God has given me enough and more, so that I have ways out of this present stinky situation.

See! I already feel better about things. Thanking God for his gifts to us is not only right, but it helps us see our own circumstances differently. Being thankful shows us that our heavenly Father can be trusted to provide what we need. Not always in the way that we would have chosen, but in the way that works his good purposes.

Throughout this year I’m planning to post a few thoughts of thanksgiving each Thursday along with Kim at the Upward Call and others.


Theological Term of the Week

union with Christ
“A phrase used to summarize several different relationships between believers and Christ, through which Christians receive every benefit of salvation”1; “that intimate, vital, and spiritual union between Christ and His people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation”2; also called mystical union.

  • From scripture:
    I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV) 

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us  for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

    11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee  of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,  to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14)

  • From The Westminster Larger Catechism:

    Question 66: What is that union which the elect have with Christ?

    Answer: The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.

  • From Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray:

    Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation. All to which the people of God have been predestined in the eternal election of Go, all that has been secured and procured for them in the once-for-all accomplishment of redemption, all of which they become the actual partakers in the application of redemption, and all that by God’s grace they will become in the state of consummated bliss is embraced within the compass of union and communion with Christ. …[I]t is adoption into the family of God as sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty that accords to the people of God the apex of blessing an privilege. But we cannot think of adoption apart from union with Christ. It is significant that the election in Christ before the foundation of the world is election unto the adoption of sons. When Paul says that the Father chose a people in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy he also adds that in love he predestined them unto adoption through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4, 5). Apparently election to holiness is parallel to predestination to adoption—these are two ways of expressing the same great truth. They disclose to us the different facets which belong to the Father’s election. Hence union with Christ and adoption are complementary aspects of this amazing grace Union with Christ reaches its zenith in adoption and adoption has its orbit in union with Christ. The people of God are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). All things are theirs whether life or death or things present or things to come all are theirs, because they are united to him in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and they are complete in him who is the head of all principality and power.

Learn more:

  1. Justin Taylor: Union with Christ: A Crash Course (This post came through my feed reader just as I was ready to hit the publish button on this post. It that convenient or what?)
  2. Jay Wetger: Understanding the doctrine of union with Christ
  3. Fisher’s Catechism: How does the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
  4. R. L. Dabney: Union with Christ
  5. Thomas Watson: Mystic Union between Christ and the Saints
  6. Sinclair Ferguson: Union with Christ in Pastoral Ministry; Union with Christ in Christian (video and audio)

Related terms:

1From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
2From Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.